Comfortable but not definitive victory for Macron against Le Pen

  • The French president wins the first round of the presidential elections with 28% and will dispute the second against the far-right candidate (23%)

  • The rebellious Jean-Luc Mélenchon exceeds 22%, but is left without ‘sorpasso’

An evident feeling of ‘déja vu’ regarding April 23, 2017. As happened five years ago, the president Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen won this Sunday in the first round of the presidential elections, according to the (very exact) estimates of the results. Many things can be reproached for the centrist leader -his assessment of him is full of chiaroscuro-, but there is no doubt that he is a genius of political strategy. After 2017 and the European elections of 2019, he has managed to install in French politics the duel between macronismo and lepenismo (extreme right). A pulse in which he has everything to win, but he cannot rush to claim victory either.

Macron got a more comfortable victory than predicted by the latest polls – even the inaccurate Belgian opinion polls spoke of a tie at 24% on Sunday afternoon. In the end, the French president was the most voted candidate with 27.6% of the vote, according to estimates announced at eight in the afternoon. Farther than expected by the polls, Le Pen has been second with 23% of the votes. Will the advantage of the centrist leader be enough to achieve a comfortable re-election? It will be known on April 24 (second round) at night.

“Let’s not be mistaken, nothing is played and the debate that we will have in fifteen days will be decisive for our country and for Europe,” Macron assured before a hundred supporters in the exhibition hall of the Porte de Versailles. “I want to convince in the coming days that our project responds much more solid way than that of the extreme right to the fears and challenges of our time”, added the centrist leader in the same place where in 2017 he celebrated his victory in the first round. Unlike then, when he was accused of a certain triumphalism, He made a rather sober speech.

For the second round in fifteen days, the centrist candidate has several advantages. Thanks to his “grand coalition” between center-right and center-left, and perhaps also benefiting from an effect of “national unity” from the war in Ukraine, he increased his 2017 result by more than three points. the socialists, the republican right, the greens and the communists asked for the vote for him for the sake of making a cordon sanitaire to the extreme right. “To all those who did not vote for Macron today, I ask you to join our regrouping,” Le Pen said.

“No vote for Mrs. Le Pen!”

“No vote for Mrs. Le Pen!”, “No vote for Mrs. Le Pen!”, “No vote for Mrs. Le Pen!”, the rebellious Jean-Luc Mélenchon (ecosocialist) cried up to three times, the third man of these elections, who stayed at the gates of second place, less than a point from the leader of the National Regrouping (RN, far right). Despite having been climbing in the polls since mid-March, he did not achieve the long-awaited ‘sorpasso’ for the French left. The leader of the France Insumisa has obtained 22.2% of the votes, according to estimates. Undoubtedly, this is an important result for the Podemos partners in Francebut insufficient to unseat the ultra leader.

The veteran candidate has benefited from a powerful useful vote effect by the left, leaving the other five progressive candidates with less than 5% of the vote (the green Yannick Jadot with 4%, the communist Fabien Roussel with just over 2%, the socialist Anne Hidalgo with 2.1% and the two Trotskyist aspirants with less than 1%). This dynamic has been, however, insufficient to advance Le Pen. The far-right support was concentrated on the leader of the RN and left the far-right polemicist Éric Zemmour with just 7% of the votes.

The candidate of The Republicans (partners of the PP in France), Valérie Pécresse, obtained a humiliating 5%. Tonight’s results not only confirm the repetition of the same duel (Macron-Le Pen) from 2017, but also the collapse of the formations that shaped bipartisanship in France for decades. The Republican Right and the Socialists add up to just 7% of the support. Quite a demonstration of the change of time in the neighboring country.

Participation falls, but does not sink

Participation fell in France, but did not sink. 74% of voters, according to estimates, went to the polls this Sunday. This represents a decrease of four points compared to the first round of 2017 (78%). After some municipal ones in 2020 and some regional ones last year marked by a very low participationabstention was one of the factors to take into account.

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The election of the head of state monopolizes political life in France, where historically there was a massive vote in these elections. But after the war in Ukraine eclipsed the campaign in the media and there were no television debates, there was a fear that in these presidential elections the abstention record of the first round of 2002, of 29%, would be exceeded. Finally, turnout was slightly higher than twenty years ago.

However, one of Macron’s challenges for the second round will be to mobilize the electorate of the rest of the parties. As was the case in 2017, a significant increase in abstention between the first and second rounds cannot be ruled out. In fact, according to the latest polls, the centrist leader would prevail with 54% of the votes against 46% for Le Pen. The electoral suspense has not yet completely faded in France.

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